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8 high schools allowed to keep special status

Aug 31,2019
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Principals and parents of students of autonomous private high schools hold a press conference in Joongdong High School in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, Friday, welcoming local courts’ rulings to not revoke the licenses of eight autonomous private high schools in Seoul for now. [NEWS1]
Eight autonomous private high schools in Seoul will keep their special status for now, after local courts on Friday ordered authorities not to revoke their licenses.

After reviewing requests by Kyunghee High School and Hanyang University High School, a branch of the Seoul Administrative Court ordered an emergency halt to the government’s revocation of the schools’ licenses, to “prevent irrevocable damage from occurring as a result of the measures.”

Other courts followed suit the same day, ruling that Paichai High School, Sehwa High School, Soongmoon High School, Shinil High School, Ewha Womans University High School and Choongang High School can keep their licenses temporarily.

These high schools, located in various parts of Seoul, can admit and enroll new students for the spring semester and operate as usual until administrative courts make their final ruling on whether the government’s decision to revoke their licenses based on public assessments was valid.

The city education office assessed 13 autonomous private high schools in Seoul this year and announced earlier this month that nine of them did not pass their test and should be revoked of their special status and remodeled into regular high schools.

Autonomous private high schools are financially independent from the government. In return, they are granted more freedom in choosing students and developing their curriculum and tuition.

Education offices throughout the country assess autonomous private high schools every five years to determine whether they can maintain their autonomous private status. In order for such schools to maintain their status, they must score a minimum of 70 points out of 100 in their assessment by local education offices.

The assessment follows guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education. However, local education offices can choose to follow or alter these guidelines. The assessment criteria may include the tuition, curriculum, teacher aptitude, the state of facilities and students’ assessments.

Of the nine private schools that did not pass their test, eight of them filed a lawsuit asking courts to suspend the government order to strip their status immediately due to concerns that the measure could reduce the number of enrolled students and increase fiscal difficulties.

Friday’s decision by the courts follows similar rulings in Busan and Suwon, Gyeonggi delivering an early blow to the government’s long-term plan to scrap autonomous private high schools to achieve what it describes as a more equal environment in education. Autonomous private high schools tend to be more competitive in getting graduates into top universities.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]